By now, we know that what we put into our bodies matters — and as we get older, it becomes even more important for us to be hyper-vigilant about which foods we’re eating and which ones we’re avoiding. This rings especially true when it comes to keeping our skin glowing and healthy.
While certain foods help build collagen and speed skin cell regeneration, other foods speed up the aging process and cause skin to look dry, dull, puffy, and wrinkled.
A few things cause skin to age. One, of course, is sun damage. The other is something called advanced glycation end products or AGE’s. AGE’s are produced when fat or protein combine with sugar, and they cause damage to the skin cells which speeds up the aging process. Eating certain foods causes your body to produce more AGE’s, which can accelerate skin again.
Below, you’ll find a list of foods you should avoid (or at least cut down on) to keep your skin looking fresh and smooth. As a general rule, try replacing these with whole, minimally processed foods that are rich in nutrients that improve collagen production and skin elasticity.
We all might be craving a little more comfort food right now, but think twice before you reach for those french fries. When foods are fried in oils at high heat, those oils release harmful free radicals that cause damage to your skin cells, making your skin look dull. What’s more, fried food like french fries, are also often loaded with salt which can cause dehydration. Dehydration also leads to older-looking skin!
Refined carbs like white bread and white pasta turn into sugar in your bloodstream. These sugars merge with protein to form AGE’s which can accelerate skin aging. What’s more, refined carbs often have a high glycemic index, and foods with a high GI can cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation has also been shown to speed up the aging process.
Refined sugar, like white sugar or corn syrup stimulates the production of AGE’s that damage collagen. In fact, sugar consumption has also long been associated with skin conditions like acne and eczema. Try to reduce foods that contain sugar in all refined forms and replace them with natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup.
The jury is still out on dairy as a whole, but we know that margarine isn’t great for skin health. Part of it is because margarine contains partially hydrogenated oils — fatty acids that damage the skin by making it more vulnerable to collagen-damaging UV rays. Swap butter for margarine, or try healthier alternatives like avocado or olive oil.
Processed meats like hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon, and sausage should also be avoided. They contain harmful saturated fats, and they are preserved with chemicals called sulfites and nitrates that can have a damaging effect on skin. Processed meats also tend to have high amounts of sodium which can all dehydrate the skin and weaken collagen. Opt for uncured meat options when possible.
Caffeine disrupts your skin health in a few ways. For one, it could disrupt your fluid balance and contribute to dehydration, leaving skin looking dry and dull. On the other hand, too much caffeine can also disrupt your sleep, and sleep is a game changer when it comes to your youthful glow. If possible, cut down on caffeinated colas and limit yourself to one or two cups of coffee in the morning to avoid disrupting those precious z’s.
Put down that glass of wine! Alcohol is one of the worse culprits when it comes to skin aging. That’s because alcohol depletes your body of water and vital nutrients like vitamin A, which are essential for maintaining a healthy glow. When it comes to the skin, alcohol can cause redness, puffiness, loss of collagen, and wrinkles, so be sure to keep your intake moderate.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.